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Have You Been Burned by A Bad SEO Agency? The Dos and Don’ts of SEO

Nov 4, 2015
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have-you-been-burned-by-bad-seo.pngAre you frustrated and disappointed with the SEO agency you’ve hired? Unfortunately, you’re not alone. A number of the clients we have coming to us have “tried” SEO before, but instead of getting results, they just got more headaches. Most of these other SEO companies aren’t necessarily frauds, many of them just haven’t evolved with the industry and continue to use outdated and ineffective strategies, many of which worked well in the past. But, many of theses old tactics don’t help at all anymore and could even cause your site to be penalized by the Big ‘G’.

So what should you look out for when trying to determine which SEO agency to hire? The search marketing world is more competitive than ever. In order to find an agency that will help you meet your online marketing goals, there are a few things you need to look for. Below we will walk through the do’s and don’ts of both bad and good SEO agencies so you can be sure you don’t get burned again!

SEO Red Flags

Running a comprehensive SEO audit is the first thing I do before ever moving forward with a client. This allows for me to see the holes in the current strategy and then plan accordingly to make sure that the business I am working with will get results. Below are few of the most common red flags or issues I come across during the initial audit phase as well as few claims I hear all the time.

The Ranking Claim

Any agency promising you a first page ranking within a certain time limit should raise a red flag for you. It’s not that this isn’t possible, because it is. The issue is that in order to achieve this, some sort of manipulation is needed. While you could have some short term success, in the long run this will cause you more frustration than you signed up for. Why? First, many of the tactics used to achieve these claims are what we in the SEO world called “Black Hat”. These tactics can cause your site to be penalized. The second issue, is that many of theses tactics are also spammy. This gives your brand a bad name and takes more work to fix.  

Low Quality Content

More isn’t always better. Many SEO’s will publish a ton of junk content for the purpose of trying to gain rankings. Full disclosure, in my early days of SEO I used to do this, but in today’s world it just won’t work. SEO is more than just building links and ranking, it’s about building trust for your brand and connecting you with potential customers online.

When someone comes across your content you need to be able to answer “Yes” to these two questions. Am I proud of the article and believe it reflects my brand?  Does the content add value to my audience?

Cracked Foundation

Any SEO agency that doesn’t have a solid on-page SEO strategy should be avoided. Your website is the foundation for all of your success and if your on page SEO is a mess, you can’t expect to succeed. Some of the most common issues I come across are the lack of image ALT tags, misuse of H Tags and improper or confusing internal link structures. These are all basic and essential elements your site needs to have optimized.

No Real Business Metrics

Reports that show fancy bar graphs and lots of keywords with ranking changes are cool, but do they actually show the impact on your business. Does it really matter how many social bookmarks you got if the traffic bounces right off your site? Good SEO will not only get you more visitors, but help convert them with great content. 

What “Good SEO” Looks Liked

No 1ST Page Ranking Promises

That’s right, a good SEO won’t promise you a ranking, but you can be darn sure we will work for it. It may take time, sometimes up to a year, but the practices used by good SEO will ensure that you stay there and convert that traffic. We will talk about strategy, keyword research and competitive analysis. We’ll help you understand social media and how it can help you build a connection with your audience and amplify your content. Finally, we will help you understand that SEO is first user-focused and then search engine-focused.

Focused on User Engagement 

Creating engaging content is essential to successful SEO. But in order for them to work together, you need to produce long form content that adds value to your audience. A study at the Capsicum Mediaworks blog discovered that pages in the top 10 of Google’s search results tended to have at least 2000 words.  If you don’t have anything meaningful to say, just don’t say anything.  Take time and research good ideas and write better content. Content that is useful to your audience and focused around one long tailed keyword.

Strong Foundation 

A good SEO agency will take the time to audit your site and make sure that it is as healthy as possible. At Shelley Media Arts we run an in-depth audit of each of the sites we market for and map out a plan of action to deal with each issue. We address everything from structure of the site, meta descriptions and titles, images ALT tags, H Tags, schema mark up and more. Like we stated before, your website is the center piece of a success search marketing strategy. Making sure your website's on page SEO is in order is very important.

Check out our SEO On Page Checklist to get your started 

Goals Around Business Results

The ultimate goal of any marketing strategy is to produce real business results. You want to know that your money is being spent effectively and the investment you made into SEO has a positive ROI.  A good SEO agency will not only share what they’ve accomplished and the statistical results, but will tie it all back to real business metrics. SEO is about growing your businesses exposure and a quality SEO agency will do more than just drive more traffic to your site, they’ll drive more business to your business.

While you may have been burned in the past, giving up on marketing your business online will just put you further behind your competition. Not all SEO agencies are bad and even some of the ones still using old tactics just simply got caught up in old processes. SEO still works, maybe even better than ever. You just need to be sure that you hire an agency that is focused on driving value to your audience and that stays on top of industry and the changes over at the Big ‘G’.  

If you’ve been burned or have any SEO questions, please comment below. The more we share and connect the better we all get.

The Ultimate SEO Checklist - increase website traffic


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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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